Lard bread, available at many Italian bakeries, is a loaf has rendered pork fat and morsels of cubed, cured prosciutto layered into the dough. Its meaty perfume and chewy nuggets of ham are made even more delectable with the addition of sweet onions, Italian herbs, and crunchy bits of cooked fennel in this stuffing. Because styles and flavors of lard bread vary by bakery—some are fluffy and moist, others are dense and crusty, and some have a peppery kick—feel free to tinker with the salt, pepper, and baking time in this recipe as your loaf requires.
- 1 lb. 8 oz. prosciutto lard bread (about 1 1/2 one-pound loaves), cut into 3/4-inch cubes (9 cups)
- 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped into 1/4-inch cubes (1 cup)
- 1 large bulb fennel, bulb thinly sliced into 2-inch pieces (6 oz.), fronds reserved
- 1 cup finely chopped celery and celery leaves
- 1 medium clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
- 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
- 1⁄4 tsp. Kosher salt
- 4 large eggs
- 2 1⁄2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. finely chopped Italian parsley leaves
Preheat the oven to 350° and set a rack in the center and the top third. Distribute the bread cubes in a single layer on 2 baking sheets and bake, rotating halfway through, until toasted and lightly crisp, about 18 minutes. Remove and set aside. Raise the oven to 400°.
In a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add the onions and season with ¼ tsp. kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not colored, 2 minutes. Add the fennel and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened slightly, 2 minutes. Add the celery and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat and stir in the Italian seasoning.
Add the bread cubes to a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Pour the onion mixture on top and stir briefly to distribute.
In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, stock, and a pinch of black pepper until combined. Pour the liquid mixture over the bread mixture in the baking dish; sprinkle the parsley on top and stir gently until all of the bread cubes are moistened (stop before the bread cubes break down too much). Evenly distribute the stuffing in the pan and cover the pan with foil. Transfer to the oven and bake 20 minutes.
Remove the foil from the pan. Break or chop the butter into small pieces and scatter atop the stuffing. Return the pan to the top third of the oven and bake until the top is lightly crisp and the liquids have been absorbed, 18 to 20 minutes.
Remove the pan and let cool slightly. Garnish sparingly with fennel fronds and serve.